I have been thinking about what it means to be leaving Seattle, and the things that I will miss.
Of course, what I will miss the most are my friends. This is where I have spent the majority of my adult life. This is where I have felt welcomed into a community. It is where I’ve learned how important community is to me. It is where I’ve learned a lot about myself.
People are important, but there are less significant things about Seattle that I will miss. Like the annual milk carton derby. It is an event that has such a small-town feel to it–while Seattle becomes more cosmopolitan. At the same time, I am impressed by the creativity of the milk carton “boats”. I’m equally impressed by how much milk needs to be consumed in order to build one of them. One day, if we ever return to Seattle, maybe we’ll enter the milk carton derby. Hopefully we’ll have kids who really like to drink milk.I really can’t describe everything that I’ll miss about Seattle. But, I will definitely miss it.
I remember when (almost 10 years ago), I happily went house-hunting for my first house. I spent 10 months looking for the perfect house. I didn’t think I was being too picky. But, I just couldn’t find a house that suited me.
And then, miraculously, a friend from work was selling her house. I took a look at it and immediately decided to buy it. I think it took me ten minutes to make that decision.
Now, since we’re moving to Sydney, we are selling the house. We thought about holding onto it and renting it out–but we decided that it would just be too stressful, since we will be so far away. The house is listed, after a long and arduous process of getting it in a pretty condition.
But now, I am learning all of the pitfalls of selling a house. I feel like I’m being punished. And I am realizing that the seller of the house has all of the downside:
1. We must spend all this time and money to get the house in a visually appealing condition (as mentioned previously).
2. We must pay for both the seller’s agent’s commission AND the buyer’s agent’s commission. That is 6% of the purchase price.
3. We must pay for the real estate excise tax in Washington. That is another 1.78% of the purchase price.
4. We must keep the house clean and tidy, every single day, just in case someone calls to say they want to look at the house.
5. We must leave all of the lights on. This is something that doesn’t make any sense to me. But my agent tells me that I need to leave all of the lights on in the house when I leave–just in case someone calls to view the house. The house apparently looks better with all of the lights on. This is so strange. Can’t people use light switches? Does this really make that big of a difference?
So, I now completely understand why my friend was so excited when I decided to buy the house immediately after seeing it. She didn’t have the get the house ready to be sold. I bought it as is–with the horrible paint job. I figured I wanted to paint it my colors anyway.
This is making me never want to buy a house again–for fear that I might have to sell it. This has been a painful process. I realize that the housing market is not great. But despite that, I do think that the seller is given the very short end of the stick.
Since we’re in the middle of moving to Sydney, we’re also in the middle of selling our house. Well, I should say getting our house ready for the market. This means not only packing, purging and cleaning–but also figuring out what we need to do to spruce up the house so it looks great and people will want to buy it.
My real estate agent has convinced me to spend all of this money. It’s an expensive list:
$550 for pressure washing the outside
$200 for some simple yard work (will likely need to do some more)
$900 for painting (just parts of the house, not the whole thing)
$700 for new carpet
$250 for handyman work
I’m sure I’m missing something. And I know that I have to spend this money in order for the house to look good and get sold. But spending money stresses me out. When I was 19, I was debating about buying a laptop for college. I remember my stomach churning–I couldn’t think about anything else–I just worried and worried. (I was a very boring person during this week of internal debate–my boyfriend was ready to take my credit card and buy it for me, so I would stop thinking about it.)
I think some of it stems from the focus on money that I grew up with. My parents are somewhat typical immigrants. They saved every penny, literally. My mom likes to say that they didn’t earn money–they saved money. That was how they created wealth.
But I also see the downside of focusing so much on saving money. It can create so much stress–trying so hard to spend as little as possible. You become greedy and ungenerous.
I have to remind myself that it is just money. Not that money isn’t useful. And, of course, when I think about the unemployment rate in the US, I know that there are a lot of people who $100 would be an incredible benefit. But there are some instances when I have to let go of the stress–let go of the worry–and just let it be. Think about trees and leaves instead.
I have been thinking about the idea of targeted giving for a really long time. Typically, the donations I make are to organizations that my friends are involved in. In order to support my friends, I write a check (or, more often, make a donation online). Sometimes, a tragic event occurs (like the floods in Pakistan), and I feel compelled to send money. And, since I truly love my alma mater, I donate to it every year.
But I have learned that this is not the best way to make an impact on an organization. And frankly, on a personal level, it feels very haphazard and unintentional.
So, I finally decided to go through one of the exercises in a workbook provided by the Seattle Foundation. Admittedly, I did not read the directions fully, but it starts by taking this long list of words:
It was actually interesting to realize that some of the words really didn’t move me in any particular way. While in concept, I care about all of them. But when I had to choose only three, a lot of them (surprisingly) become less important.
Then, the same exercise was done with these words.
Similarly, there were some causes that I cared very little about. And there were others that I had a really hard time letting go. I almost felt guilty–like I was saying that domestic violence (or something else) was unimportant. But if I want to be focused in my donations, I really need to find what I care most about.
I think the next step is for me to find organizations that work on my short list. The good thing is that there are so many great nonprofit organizations, that there is bound to be ones that focus on what I care about. But it is a lot of work to maintain focus as well. I know that I often hear about an organization and am moved by their mission and their passion. But, I have to remember that I should really target my giving because that is how you can make the most impact.
It is not unlike spending money in general. If we get the most enjoyment out of X, and not so much out of Y, then we would be better off spending our money on X and not on Y. But like everything else for me, I sometimes get distracted. Hopefully, now that I have a list, I’ll be able to keep my attention focused.
Something else I wrote, many years ago. (Can you tell that this is my way of being able to throw some paper away? I’ll just type it up and post it in my blog–and feel no regrets in recycling the paper. Who cares if my beautiful handwriting gets recycled?)
Once upon a time there was a little girl who would always wish for the same thing, if the opportunity ever occurred. So for years, she never had to think about what she wanted, for she always knew, and it was always the same simple wish.
One day, the girl came across a weeping old man. She stopped to ask him what was wrong and if he would like a flower – for she was always clutching something in her hand, and she had recently picked an enormous dandelion. The man stopped crying and smiled to see such sweet innocence. He graciously took the flower.
“You must make a wish and blow,” said the girl.
“Oh, but I have nothing to wish for,” cried the old man.
“Why, how strange. I always wish for the same thing.”
“Tell me, what do you wish for.”
“I can’t, or it will not come true.” She smiled.
“Ah well, then I’ll wish that your wish will come true,” and he blew.
“Okay. But next time, you must wish for something for yourself. You must have your own wish.”
And so they parted company. The man continued to hold the stem of the flower as the girl skipped along.
The girl, however, knew that her wish had already come true.
When I was a little girl, I had a wish that I always wished for. It was not “world peace” but it was close. I always wished happiness for the whole world. Of course, now that I’m older, I think it was incredibly idealistic of me. But, I do sometimes miss that little girl who just wanted the world to be happy. Sometimes, especially when I read the news, I still just wish that people could be happy–without causing any unhappiness for someone else.
As I’m cleaning out the shelves, drawers, and files in our house, I found this poem I wrote 15 years ago. I am definitely not a poet. But, as I read it, I thought it was strangely apropos at this point in time (again). Apologies for the bad poetry. But, I thought I would share it anyway.
A frightening beginning into a darkness.
Or perhaps it is a bright light with its side effects.
Once upon a time and happily ever after
Together in perfect union.
Perfection seen in the silky surface of white snow.
I wish for and if only this were so.
Everything must come to an end in order to have
again and again.
But vestiges remain of the move from one house to another.
You can never throw out everything
Only what you forget to hold onto.
When something hits you with so much force to make
And into the sea of blue-green calm you dive
Gliding through cool comfort
And stroke after stroke is the transition – the real work
Until finally an end, a place marker
A place maker
Appears in the darkness.
And then there was light.
NB and I were very practical when it came to buying an engagement ring. NB didn’t try to figure out what I would like, and then surprise me with it. Instead, he just dropped me off at a jewelry store, while he went shopping for books. When he was done shopping for books, he came back and paid for the ring. Not very romantic.
I knew I wanted a vintage ring. (For a brief moment, I was distracted by the super-sparkly diamonds at Tiffany’s. But then I realized that it was only the lighting.) The style of the rings during the Art Deco period are so beautiful. They simply don’t make rings like that anymore.
My ring is from the 1920s. The sapphires are manufactured. Apparently, manufactured gemstones were super-cool in the 1920s, so that’s what they used. But it’s not the sapphires that make me love this ring.
It’s so intricate. I love it.
The risk of buying a vintage ring is that some things can’t be fixed. I learned that the sapphires are coming loose–and if they do fall out, I might not be able to get them put back in. Trying to fix it now would be very expensive, and likely wouldn’t look very good. The other alternative would be to have the ring completely re-created.
Needless to say, I was super-bummed. While I realize that it’s just a ring, I have really grown attached to it. I suppose I could lock it up and just wear it occasionally. But, it’s so beautiful. I want to wear it!
So, I asked the jeweler if we could super-glue the sapphires into place. And surprisingly, she said they could. It’s not a permanent solution, but at least I’ll still wear it. And, if the sapphires do fall out and get lost, I’m going to hope the ring still looks okay without them. Sometimes, you just have to take the risk.